Greetings again from the darkness. Given the tragic and inexcusable frequency of real world school shootings, it’s debatable whether the topic should be considered as the basis for a movie – even one that focuses on the emotional turmoil of mother and student. Regardless of anyone’s opinion on that, this viewer found very little of value in the film, outside of Naomi Watts’ efforts. It’s not particularly entertaining as a thriller, and some of the details that play out here would be comical, if not for the subject matter.
Two-time Oscar nominee Naomi Watts stars as widowed single mother Amy Carr. The one-year anniversary of the car crash that killed her husband has arrived, and those haunting visions still jolt her from a deep sleep. After calling in to work for a personal day, failing to roust her teenage son Noah (Colton Gobbo) from bed, and ensuring young daughter Emily (Sierra Maltby) is safely on the school bus, Amy heads out for a morning jog.
From that point on, most of what happens stretches the bounds of believability to the point that a few eye rolls are perfectly acceptable. Amy’s jog somehow takes her miles into a forest, and yet she manages to hold more phone conversations than an old-time switchboard operator. That is, until she learns of the active shooter. This triggers sporadic cell coverage – now she has it, now she doesn’t. Her magic phone does allow crazy fast and detailed GPS information, and yet the most ridiculous LYFT order ever. It’s clear every driver in town has had some form of car crash and evidently they all have dealt with the body shop across from the school, where the most helpful attendant in history answers Amy’s calls. The same can be said for the 911 operator she reaches multiple times – despite the local urgent and dangerous situation. And if I haven’t used the word ludicrous yet, that’s the best description of Amy’s interactions with local law enforcement … after her sprained ankle and slight concussion.
On the plus side, Ms. Watts gives the role everything she has. And since it’s a “pandemic” movie, almost every scene features her going solo. She’s a true professional that simply can’t save the material. Phillip Noyce directed one of my favorite underrated thrillers, DEAD CALM (1989), and is best known for the Harrison Ford – Jack Ryan thrillers PATRIOT GAMES (1992) and CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER (1994). Screenwriter Chris Sparling was behind a far superior ‘one-actor’ film with BURIED (2010). A certain amount of guilt goes with criticizing this movie, given the topic; however, the exploitive nature and gimmicky elements prevent any other approach. The ending is an absurd display of social media with the all-too-familiar cry of “this has to stop.” Noyce’s film leaves us with the message that school shootings are horrible. It’s a message that I’m confident the vast majority of us have already received even before watching Naomi Watts run for 80 minutes.
In Theaters, on Digital, and On Demand February 25, 2022